Listening to Stephen Jones talk about the decision to lock up Miles Austin through 2016, it was hard not to notice that he spent a lot more time talking about the things Austin is off the field instead of the player that he is on it.
"He's not a one-year wonder," the Cowboys executive vice president said. "Whether it be his work ethic, whether it be him off the field being a great leader. He's the anti-wide receiver. He's the anti-diva that you normally see with receivers. He's not that type of guy."
Jones had plenty of reason to avoid the discussion of Austin's on-field exploits. With just one year as a starter under his belt, there simply aren't that many of them to talk about and any recitation of them would naturally lead to questions about his ability to do it again now that defenses are going to game plan around stopping him. Far easier to point out differences between Austin and the Terrell Owens/Roy Williams types who everyone loathes.
We're not going to stick up for Williams, but T.O. is a bit of a tricky case to use in this instance. He wound up as a loathsome character but he didn't start that way. Like Austin, T.O. came from obscure beginnings and earned every snap he got in the NFL through a combination of hard work and talent. No matter how dreadful Owens became as a person, he was also a guy who put up numbers when opposing defenses devoted every minute of their day to trying to stop him from making plays.
No one is predicting that Austin will turn into Owens off the field, but no one can say for certain that he's going to turn into him on the field either. That ability to impact football games was the reason why the Cowboys gave Owens a big contract and that's the thing we don't know about Austin at this point in time.
We'll have a better idea about whether Austin is that kind of player soon enough, which is why it's a bit odd that the Cowboys didn't wait before sealing this deal. Austin's leverage wasn't going to skyrocket with a strong month nor was he going to suddenly walk out on the team and jeopardize the biggest payday of his life.
There's a lot to like about this deal. The Cowboys now have every good young player on this team tied up for a long time. All of those qualities Jones praised are things to like about Austin and they give reason to believe that he'll continue to thrive in his new role. There's just this lingering uncertainty that didn't have to be part of the backdrop for such a big investment.
It's great that he's a better person than T.O., but that's not enough reason to pay him for playing like T.O.
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